(Context: Seeing Paul’s call to suffering as a type of Christ, who was called to suffer and die for the glory of God and the salvation of many. Part 3 continues the discussion and then applies it to us personally.)
My mind immediately turns to the moment when Peter confronted Jesus and entreated him not to go to Jerusalem. Peter, unknowingly, was being used by Satan to stall Jesus and even to have him give in to his own desires, instead of holding onto God’s plan. Had Christ disobeyed, the world would be utterly and eternally lost, without any way, or any truth, or any life. Had Paul disobeyed, the great escapades in Jerusalem, Rome, and beyond would have never been known to us, and many who would have been saved perhaps would have never heard the Good News.
To reject or distort God’s calling is neither wise nor safe, and we must strive to know what He would have us do. We do not often receive direct orders from On High as Paul and Christ did, yet the same Holy Spirit does work in us and direct us, and we must ask God for help in discerning His plan for us, for our families, for our churches, and for this world’s future.
Soon after Agabus’ prophecy, Paul arrives in Jerusalem, is falsely accused, bound, and taken to a Roman barrack for questioning. Paul stands trial several times, accused with vicious and hypocritical accusations, only to be later ambushed and saved by God’s caring hand.
I wonder what this time period was like for Paul, perhaps feeling alone and even helpless at times. Although he didn’t know it, he would spend two more years in the jail at Caesarea without a just trial. He would then have to appeal to Caesar in order to not be killed in a second ambush set-up in wait for him in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem he would be under house arrest, and many more perils and difficulties would oppose him at every step. He was God’s man, therefore he had a target on his back, and in this life the enemies of the faithful are far more than the friends ever will be.
I wonder if he ever thought if he had made a mistake in going to Jerusalem. Perhaps he wondered if his courage was actually only pride, and his confidence simply stubbornness. “The following night the Lord stood by [Paul] and said, ‘Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome’” (Act 23:11). What an encouragement! What a light in the midst of darkness! To know that not only did he follow God’s plan, He understood his pain and had a plan for his well-being and for his future.
I wonder if such experiences helped Paul be able to unravel some of the challenges observed in understanding Christ’s determination to go to Jerusalem, no matter the cost. The author of Hebrews, whomever he was, clearly has some encouragement and interpretation for us: “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2). Isaiah, perhaps as the inspiration to this word ‘joy’, wrote the following some 700 years before: “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities” (Isa. 53:11).
Here is a call to courage, to stand firm in the face of adversity and even evil, all to the glory of God. Here is a call to endure suffering and embrace it in joy, knowing that it is temporary and purposeful, preparing us and others for the future world. Here is a call to remembrance, to remember the One who is everything and became nothing on our behalf, who seeing the pain, suffering, and even death awaiting Him, counted it as nothing in comparison to the gift of eternal life which He could give to all.
Here let us say thank you to Jesus, our Savior, who courageously embraced suffering and death, that we might have true purpose and eternal life.